A penniless Albanian political refugee who settled in Panmure, Auckland, in the late 1950s has been named one of the top Muslim leaders of the 20th century.

Mazhar Krasniqi, who received a Queen's Service Medal in 2003, sits alongside black American activist Malcolm X, former Malaysian political leader Anwar Ibrahim, and Pakistan's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in the book 100 Great Muslim Leaders of the 20th Century, just published by the Institute for Objective Research, New Delhi, India.

Mr Krasniqi, now in his mid-70s, established himself as a leader in New Zealand's Muslim and Albanian communities.

He is "a real kaumatua of the New Zealand Muslim community," says Abdullah Drury, a Pakeha convert to Islam and secretary of the Muslim Association of Canterbury.

In 1979, Mr Krasniqi became the first president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, was a founder of the country's first mosque, in Ponsonby, and helped establish the halal meat export trade.

Mr Krasniqi, who moved to Australia several years ago, is visiting family in Albania and could not be contacted.

But friend Javed Khan, the FIANZ president, said the accolade was "great news".

The IOR was formed in 1986 to research India's minority Muslims, and says naming its top 100 "is our endeavour to inspire the world community with the lives and times of these great leaders".